Hubert Burda Media

Fall 2013 Haute Couture Report

The themes this season are ostentatious ornamentation, over-the-top opulence and…om, with the highly meditative return of Viktor & Rolf. 

There was no need for a re-entry with a bang for design duo Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren. In a meditative mood after coming out of their 13-year hiatus to celebrate their brand’s 20th anniversary, the pair sent out 20 models (for each year in business) on a stage printed with raked gravel to resemble a zen garden. Every model donned the same black fabric, a spongy technical silk engineered so that as soon as each one finished her gait and took her stage position in a restful stance (be it standing, sitting or even lying down), they would look akin to a pretty mound of ebony stones.
This being a Donatella show, there was plenty of skin, loads of glitz and no shortage of drama. Naomi Campbell kicked the show off to a sizzling start as she slinked down the runway in a provocative jacket, barely held together by crystal hook-and-eyes. Beneath the razzle-dazzle of bejewelled pieces, there was brain with beauty too. Tailoring finesse was displayed in pieces, such as an elaborate trench where mink and cashmere were hand-woven together, and seams that encircled the body contours.
Set in the ruins of a derelict theatre, tattered curtains parted to a view over a futuristic metropolis, a cinematic space-time continuum actually inspired by Singapore, which Karl Lagerfeld himself visited this May for his Cruise presentation. Sci-fi was at its chicest when voluminous Victorian-esque skirts were contrasted against white plastic lining, and tulle sparkled with a mosaic of multicoloured crystals. Elsewhere, mirrored sequins illuminated classic tweed.
With opulence at its maximum, it was a show fit for a queen as a symphony of emerald green, ruby red and sapphire blue crystals donned the dresses and trains that shimmered across the runway.
Nobody does floral better than Valli. This season brought a daisy chain of gowns, inspired by ceramic paintings, traipsing down the runway, beginning with Capodimonte white and ending with a flurry of colour in Meissen-influenced embroidery. The flower appliqués cascading down each gown looked almost lifelike and gave way to leggy silhouettes, while trumpet skirts were sheer to complete the forest nymph effect.
Obviously we’ve been doing vintage all wrong, judging by the looks that rocked the Margiela runway. Beautiful fabrics of the 1920s, silk tulle Art Nouveau curtains and 1950s dresses were transformed into pieces that were unmistakably MMM. On one hand, the pieces were audaciously beautiful — like the Napoleon-era tieback embellished with pearls transformed into an exquisite tuxedo, or a coat made from a 1950s prom dress with vintage fabric flowers (sourced from around the world) appliquéd along the hems. On the other, the artistry was impeccable, and how they gave new life to old clothes was simply captivating — a skill that the Maison is unparalleled at.
Doors opened to an enchanting show, almost like stepping into a mythology where cashmere coats featured the heads of lions and gowns were stitched with gold thread and 2,200 river pearls. Those extravagant dresses were a marvelous sight indeed, but what was more surprising was that the designers placed an emphasis on daywear, where lace intertwined with cashmere on a trench coat and sheaths had seams that outlined an hourglass silhouette. Valentino may be alluding to more ancient times, but what it ended up with was something refreshingly modern.
Couture du jour she calls it and rightly so — no couturier has approached daywear with as much gusto as Jarrar and oh, does she do it well. Running on a philosophy of a tailored, masculine silhouette with a feminine touch, the collection saw elegant cropped trousers slung with metal chains and multiple belts at the waist, paired with a crystal-embroidered, feathered harness or a tailored vest encrusted with iridescent beads.
Ava Gardner, Bette Davis, Ginger Rogers…the screen goddesses of old Hollywood came back to life as pearlescent colours, elongated columns, frothy volumes and floor-sweeping gowns thundered down the runway at Armani in lacy, Swarovski-encrusted clouds of tulle, organza and plumage.
A collection inspired by world costume cultures —Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa — shared the runway as Raf Simons presented a glorious tapestry. A floor-length singlet displayed the classic French couture technique of embroidered feather-work, a recurring technique in the collection alongside the Japanese art of shibori. Standout pieces include a vibrant, spiked tube dress and colour-blocked silk strapless number with African tribal colours.
It was a theatrical affair as sci-fi and felines met on the Gaultier runway. A repeat theme was the leopard prints, which came in a myriad of materials and colours; feathers were artfully disguised as ocelot fur. There were also attempts to venture into futuristic designs, almost Star Wars-worthy, which is to say, costume-y.
There is a new kind of couture it seems: Demi-couture, as Creative Director Goga Ashkenazi would call it. Basically, gowns that (1) are just as intricate as their couture counterparts (2) require only a single fitting and (3) cost only a fraction of the couture price. Compared to standout pieces, such as a tent dress with matte sequins embroidered to resemble the spikes on a dragon’s spine, it was the understated pieces that worked best, such as a red plissé gown with black beadwork encircling the waist and squaring off the shoulders (right).